EDUCANZ profile: Nancy Bell

Issue: Volume 93, Number 8

Posted: 19 May 2014
Reference #: 1H9ctK

Deputy chairperson of the EDUCANZ Transition Board, Nancy Bell, provides an overview of how the proposed new body could make a difference.

The Education Amendment Bill (No.2) is before our nation’s lawmakers and seeks to make changes to the Education Act relating to the governance, form, and function of the profession’s regulatory body. Building on challenges encountered when the New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC) came into being, a transition board has been tasked with overseeing the smooth transfer of functions, assets, liabilities, and employees to the new entity, which will be an independent statutory body, currently being called ‘EDUCANZ’.

The transition board has seven key tasks:

  • develop a vision and mission for EDUCANZ
  • propose a strategic plan
  • recruit an interim Chief Executive
  • oversee the transition from the existing NZTC to the new body
  • ensure business continuity with the current NZTC engage with key stakeholders and the Ministry of Education
  • provide advice to the Minister of Education (and other Ministers as relevant) as required.

Nancy Bell has been appointed deputy chair to the transition board. She is the current chief executive of the New Zealand Childcare Association and comes from a background in early childhood and initial teacher education. Initially qualifying as a kindergarten teacher in Dunedin, Nancy became a senior teacher for the Dunedin Kindergarten Association after teaching in four Otago kindergartens.

From there, Nancy moved into initial teacher education, teaching at Dunedin and Christchurch Colleges of Education and Massey University. She was appointed associate principal of Palmerston North College of Education before becoming director of teacher education at NZCA, then moving into the Chief Executive role.

Education Gazette caught up with Nancy at the offices of the NZCA and asked her about why she accepted the invitation to take up the role of deputy chair of the EDUCANZ transition board.

Education Gazette: The Ministry of Education has called EDUCANZ a “cornerstone of the Government’s effort to raise the status of the profession.” How do you think the new entity can achieve this?

Nancy Bell: I think it signals a coming of age for the profession. My hope is that [the profession] can now take control of its own destiny and teachers can take charge of moving the profession forward. I know that the profession would welcome opportunities to influence and shape education policy, expressing views independent of government. The new body is proposed to have a wider focus on teachers and leaders and on supporting educators throughout their career progressions. I think an expanded focus on leadership would enable us to think more broadly about attracting great people into teaching and developing their strengths and talents.

The NZTC has a strong focus on registration and discipline, and [a new body] would continue to do so. But a bigger focus on professional leadership is envisaged – both leading the profession and growing professional leadership. In my sector, early childhood education, there are a number of issues we’d like our professional body to consider in the future and hence I hope that this potential is realised.

In terms of the proposed body, are we beyond high-level think-tank discussion at this point? Do we have any indication as to what it will look like on the ground?

We’re waiting on the outcome of the Bill before we know what shape a new body would take. As a transition board, our job is to craft a mission and a vision, which will be largely decided by the intent and the direction of the act. But we’re also bringing our own thoughts regarding areas that a new entity should be focussing on in its first five years. We won’t be doing this in isolation; already, we’re talking with people across the sector about what they think needs to happen to get a new body off to a strong start.

Why did you agree to take up this role?

Traditionally, early childhood education has had to fight to get a place at the table, and so it was really important to me that the transition board included an ECE voice. Currently, ECE teachers make up 22 per cent of registered teachers in the profession, so they’re a large stakeholder. It’s important that their hopes and concerns are represented in the conversations that we have as a profession. Actually, I was the first chair of the NZTC ECE advisory committee, and I know that this advisory committee is something that my ECE colleagues value and want to retain in the future.

You were part of the Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) following the review of the Teachers Council. Can you explain a bit of the process the MAG went through?

Our job [as the MAG] was to consult with the sector about the main recommendations of the review. We took these out to our various networks within the sector, asking a series of questions; we attended 90 engagements and talked with over 2000 individuals during that period. Our face-to-face engagements ran alongside a public submission process, which generated 890 submissions. All in all, we heard from a great many people about what they wanted their professional body to look like.

What were some of the opinions voiced during consultation that came up again and again?

We heard a lot of support for an independent statutory body: most that we met said ‘this is a good thing’, and most were supportive of the idea that the new body would be independent of government. People also said they were happy about the proposals to strengthen the disciplinary and registration processes. Teachers wanted their professional body to have public confidence through rigorous and transparent processes. They wanted to see good news stories in the media about the great work teachers are doing. Some teachers told us that they were finding it hard to convince their students to consider teaching as a career due to the negative publicity – they wanted to see this change so that teaching attracted our best students.

It’s fair to say that one of the main concerns expressed by some in the sector goes: ‘how can EDUCANZ be independent when its council members are appointed rather than elected?’ How would the transition board respond?

As a transition board, we hear the feedback to what is proposed but will not be taking a position on this issue, as our role is to advise on implementation – not the legislation. There is a select committee process at present and people have had the opportunity to express their thoughts on what it proposes prior to any decision being made.

Another concern that’s been raised: ‘EDUCANZ is a Trojan horse to begin pushing performance pay.’

I can unequivocally say that we are not, nor will we be, discussing performance pay. These sorts of issues sit well outside our brief, which is to oversee a smooth transition and help a new entity get off to a good start.

How is the transition board tracking in meeting its objectives?

We’ve appointed our interim Chief Executive, Julian Moore, who’s got lots of transition experience and will be invaluable in that respect. He’s working closely with Peter Lind, the current director of the NZTC, to ensure that if this goes ahead, it does so smoothly, and business as usual, such as registration, continues uninterrupted. We are also taking the opportunity through our networks to find out what teachers and other members of the profession are hoping for from the new entity.

NZSL week: free NZSL taster classes for schools

The Ministry of Education is encouraging schools to support New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) Week by enrolling in free 45-minute NZSL taster classes run by Deaf Aotearoa (with support from the Ministry of Education). Register for a free class in NZSL Week using the online registration form. Visit the Deaf Aotearoa website(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:14 AM, 19 May 2014

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